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School of Geography

EGC Projects

Paleoclimatological assessment of the central Northwest Territories: implications for the long-term viability of the Tibbett to Contwoyto winter ice road

PI: Tim Patterson (Carleton University, Canada)

Co-I: Graeme Swindles (University of Leeds)

Overview: The Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road (TCWR) is a 568-km-long annual ice road first constructed in 1982 to service mines and exploration activities in the Northwest Territories (NT) and Nunavut (NU). The TCWR is the world's longest heavy haul ice road and critical to the economy of the region with more than $500 million per year in goods passing over it. It is the only overland route that services mines and exploration camps in the NT, including the Diavik Diamond Mine, the Ekati Diamond Mine, and the Snap Lake Mine. By volume diesel fuel is the most important item trucked north on the road, however, other essential supplies include cement, tires, prill for explosives manufacture, construction materials, and machinery parts. Without the TCWR these important mines sites would most like never have been developed. As mining activity continues to expand in this region it is essential that planners and policy makers have a firm understanding of the natural variability of climate that influences ice cover as well as the nature of potential future climatic variation so that more effective ice road management policies can be implemented.

We will utilize a number of records of late Holocene limnological change contained in targeted lakes along the TCWR to construct a detailed record of climatic cycles and trends for this region at subdecadal resolution. This data will then be used to determine the potential for climate change to impact winter ice cover along the TCWR. By documenting the response of these Arctic freshwater and associated terrestrial ecosystems to climate change this research will provide a basis for forecasting possible future climatic impacts on these ecosystems during the coming decades. 

Start Date: 2010

End Date: 2013

Funder: Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC, Canada) Strategic Project Grant